In continuing to read N.T. Wright's Evil and the Justice of God
, I am intrigued by his rationale for why he dislikes the modern notion of progress. In his view, the concept of progress that sees the world as basically a good place with its problems eventually to be eradicated through technology, education, development, and Westernization has lead to the three major issues with the problem of evil in out day.
1. We ignore evil when it doesn't hit us in the face. For example, we know Al-Queda was a threat, but didn't take it seriously until it was too late. This of course raises the question as to how our ignoring the issues of third world debt and global warming will eventually play out.
2. We are surprised by evil when it does hit us in the face. We expect places to be safe and people to be good. We have removed death from our homes to the hospitals. So when evil, harm, and death appear it takes us by surprise and we do not have the means to understand it when it intrudes in our life.
3. As a result, when evil appears we react in immature and dangerous ways. We either
a. Project evil on to others and blame them for our woes. It's always then someone else's fault - it's society's fault, it's the government's fault, and I am an innocent victim. Society's ills are caused by terrorists, illegal immigrants, drug dealers, and criminals.
b. Project evil on to ourselves and blame ourselves. The terrorists are terrorists because of what we allowed to happen in their countries, illegal immigrants are fleeing the effects of our foreign policy...
Wright acknowledges the elements of truth is both extreme views, but asserts that it should not be an either/or. Wright recommends that we take to heart the view of Alexander Solzhenitsyn that the line between good and evil is never between "us" and "them." The line between good and evil runs through each of us.
I generally like his criticism of the current way of viewing evil. I see how I have leaned to far into both of the "immature" responses at various points in my life. But I find myself wondering if being surprised by evil is really such a bad thing.
I understand the need not to be naive or innocent in regard to evil. I fully admit that evil exists and that it is a seriously problem. But I think that becoming callous to evil is just as dangerous as not expecting evil to happen to you and then being surprised. So perhaps surprised isn't the word I am looking for. Offended might be a better choice. Offended that evil occurs and hurts people. In taking offense at evil, one still cares but is not so overwhelmed by evil that one is too paralyzed to respond. Accepting that evil exists should never cause us to forget that this is not the way the world is meant to be.
Labels: Book Reviews, Reflections